Closing Remarks by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
Marking One Year Since Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Les Cinémas du Grütli, Geneva
Good evening excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen. Thank you to Ambassadors Crocker, Smith, and Filipenko for your words earlier this evening.
I am grateful that we were able to bring us all together in the midst of what can only be described as a profound human tragedy. The sad reality, though, is that we shouldn’t have to be here tonight at all.
Words in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seventy-five years ago remain sadly true today, that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.” That this war of aggression is happening is outrageous. So let us be outraged! I know I am!
As President Biden said on Monday during his historic visit to Kyiv, “Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands….The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
This past week, the United States came to the grave determination that members of Russia’s forces and other Russian officials have committed Crimes Against Humanity in Ukraine. Again, in the words of President Biden, “They’ve targeted Ukrainians with death and destruction, used rape as a weapon of war, [and] stolen Ukrainian children in an attempt to steal Ukraine’s future.”
How can we not be moved by what we have seen and heard tonight? By the courage of the soldiers defending Mariupol? How can our hearts not be stirred by the care that ordinary citizens show for one another?
How can we not feel the emotion of a father parting with his wife and children, wondering whether he will live to see them again?
And how can we not also be inspired by those Ukrainian women? Those brave, strong, caring Ukrainian women. Whether shepherding terrified families on an evacuation train West, documenting unspeakable atrocities, bringing life into the world, providing care on the front lines, or keeping families and communities together. They are truly remarkable.
Let us also tonight recall the horrors and atrocities of Bucha, Izyum, Mariupol and the towns and victims whose names we will never know.
And let us not forget the suffering. Darkness and cold. Bunkers and sirens. Flight and separation. Dehumanization and humiliation. The loss of homes, the loss of loved ones, torture, rape, murder.
Here in Geneva we are warm and comfortable and it is so easy to become disconnected from the daily horror of Russia’s attacks.
We must work to ensure that the people of Ukraine are warmed and sheltered, healed and fed; that they are reunited with their loved ones; that abuses they have suffered will be brought to light; and that they will see accountability for the perpetrators of those abuses.
One year ago, the Human Rights Council sent a message: that Russia’s actions in Ukraine were clear abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law. The Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine that the Council established must be allowed to continue its work, and I look forward to working closely with many of you ensure that happens.
The turnout this evening from so many of you demonstrates how support and admiration for Ukraine and its people has only grown stronger over the past year. It is meaningful that we were able to mark one year of Ukraine’s historic resistance and resilience with music, poetry, and powerful and true stories of beauty and bravery.
Tonight and tomorrow are time to reflect upon and honor the courage and sacrifice and humanity of Ukrainians. And then, it is incumbent upon us to get to work to bring them the comfort they need and the justice that they deserve. Thank you.